On slowing down

Editor's note

I got out of work on Monday at about 4:30 p.m., just as the day was on the cusp of turning dark. It was not quite raining, but dripping, and warm. I remember thinking that I didn’t need the added warmth of the hat I had on and that it was too late in the day for another coffee. On my way to the timeless Von Der Heyden Pavilion—known to friends as “Vondy,” “le vond,” my mailing address—I had to stop in front of the Languages building. Someone was blasting classical music out of a second floor window facing the quad. With one window from the room propped open despite the damp weather, I had to assume that the person playing the music did not intend it to be contained.

Besides being fodder for an editor’s note, this was a thing I knew would be worth remembering for purposes poetic or otherwise. Part of this was because of the way the scene had been designed by whatever universal forces were at play at that moment—the leaves, the fog, the specificity of five tall lamps in a row, the old music. Laren Stover published a piece in The New York Times last week called “The Case for Melancholy” where she posed to readers the need for that quiet bluesy feeling “which requires reflection: a sort of mental steeping, like tea.” My roommate posted it on Facebook, her only added commentary a smiley face. This was an article that I read in Vondy, the place with its eternal glass windows that welcome the dark when it arrives and provide a surround sound of the rain. How perfectly appropriate.

Melancholy is fun. You get to play with your feelings, try something different from the default of cheerful/neutral. It’s helpful for stopping you, and making you look around at where you are. Mostly you get to enjoy the output of other people’s melancholy more in things like subtle songs or long, difficult books. It can also take you mentally to someplace else. Standing outside Perkins, I thought the long outer wall of the Gothic Reading Room looked a lot like a library in California I haven’t seen since I was seven, and the lamps took me to that little spot of Narnia. None of this is sad or weepy. These symbols just appear and you can sink into them freely.

The other part of why it was necessary to stop beneath the window was that it seemed like a fixed point in time (see: Lake Silencio). This is my last year here and, and while that could mean it is making the last chunk of time fly, it is slowing things down for me. I am trying to taste each day one at a time since so few sips are left. This is tricky when only five hours are available for sleep for days at a time and the homework won’t upload and Recess is due and “do I really deserve to be here” resurfaces again. It is nearly impossible to always be successful at being appreciative and reflective and active about enjoying time in a certain place—if you did that, you wouldn’t be in the middle of it all. But if I catch myself really liking a piece of a day here and there, it’s a sign that I am on the right track to keep things at a slower rhythm and savor it before it slides away in May.

I don’t journal regularly and I don’t keep track of every moment like this that happens around me, so what often works is to layer the fixed points in time on top of each other so that there is more weight to each and they are harder to forget. So I go to Vondy every day and I watch the people there just to feel in the middle of it all. I stop and listen to music when it happens, and I love the long nights of creating a new Recess issue. I try to have really good lunches all the time and stay up too late laughing about animals that are too small. These things blessedly get to happen again and again. 

So the ephemeral music-out-the-window-in-the-rain feeling helps because it’s reflective and sticky and makes you stop next to a tree and try to hear something. It helps you slow down and read a book for fun when you really shouldn’t. It means it’s cold—it’s the fall! “You may as well enjoy it reclining with a pot of green thunder tea as you watch the rolled leaves unfurl their poetic fury as it steeps,” Stover writes with the same subtle angst of the concept she describes.

I don’t want to go anywhere yet. I want to stew and to brew and to steep.

Georgia Parke is a Trinity senior and Recess editor.


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